|Birth Day:||May 21, 1471|
|Death Date:||Apr 6, 1528 (age 56)|
|Birth Place:||Nuremberg, Germany|
As per our current Database, Albrecht Durer died on Apr 6, 1528 (age 56).
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He learned the goldsmith trade from his father and later worked as an art apprentice to Michael Wolgemut.
The Venetian artist Jacopo de' Barbari, whom Dürer had met in Venice, visited Nuremberg in 1500, and Dürer said that he learned much about the new developments in perspective, anatomy, and proportion from him. De' Barbari was unwilling to explain everything he knew, so Dürer began his own studies, which would become a lifelong preoccupation. A series of extant drawings show Dürer's experiments in human proportion, leading to the famous engraving of Adam and Eve (1504), which shows his subtlety while using the burin in the texturing of flesh surfaces. This is the only existing engraving signed with his full name.
His famous series of sixteen great designs for the Apocalypse is dated 1498, as is his engraving of St. Michael Fighting the Dragon. He made the first seven scenes of the Great Passion in the same year, and a little later, a series of eleven on the Holy Family and saints. The Seven Sorrows Polyptych, commissioned by Frederick III of Saxony in 1496, was executed by Dürer and his assistants c. 1500. In 1502, Dürer's father died. Around 1503–1505 Dürer produced the first 17 of a set illustrating the Life of the Virgin, which he did not finish for some years. Neither these nor the Great Passion were published as sets until several years later, but prints were sold individually in considerable numbers.
In Italy, he returned to painting, at first producing a series of works executed in tempera on linen. These include portraits and altarpieces, notably, the Paumgartner altarpiece and the Adoration of the Magi. In early 1506, he returned to Venice and stayed there until the spring of 1507. By this time Dürer's engravings had attained great popularity and were being copied. In Venice he was given a valuable commission from the emigrant German community for the church of San Bartolomeo. This was the altar-piece known as the Adoration of the Virgin or the Feast of Rose Garlands. It includes portraits of members of Venice's German community, but shows a strong Italian influence. It was subsequently acquired by the Emperor Rudolf II and taken to Prague.
Between 1507 and 1511 Dürer worked on some of his most celebrated paintings: Adam and Eve (1507), Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (1508, for Frederick of Saxony), Virgin with the Iris (1508), the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin (1509, for Jacob Heller of Frankfurt), and Adoration of the Trinity (1511, for Matthaeus Landauer). During this period he also completed two woodcut series, the Great Passion and the Life of the Virgin, both published in 1511 together with a second edition of the Apocalypse series. The post-Venetian woodcuts show Dürer's development of chiaroscuro modelling effects, creating a mid-tone throughout the print to which the highlights and shadows can be contrasted.
Dürer died in Nuremberg at the age of 56, leaving an estate valued at 6,874 florins – a considerable sum. He is buried in the Johannisfriedhof cemetery. His large house (purchased in 1509 from the heirs of the astronomer Bernhard Walther), where his workshop was located and where his widow lived until her death in 1539, remains a prominent Nuremberg landmark.
Other works from this period include the thirty-seven Little Passion woodcuts, first published in 1511, and a set of fifteen small engravings on the same theme in 1512. Complaining that painting did not make enough money to justify the time spent when compared to his prints, he produced no paintings from 1513 to 1516. In 1513 and 1514 Dürer created his three most famous engravings: Knight, Death and the Devil (1513, probably based on Erasmus's Handbook of a Christian Knight), St. Jerome in His Study, and the much-debated Melencolia I (both 1514, the year Dürer's mother died). Further outstanding pen and ink drawings of Dürer's period of art work of 1513 were drafts for his friend Pirckheimer. These drafts were later used to design Lusterweibchen chandeliers, combining an antler with a wooden sculpture.
From 1512, Maximilian I became Dürer's major patron. His commissions included The Triumphal Arch, a vast work printed from 192 separate blocks, the symbolism of which is partly informed by Pirckheimer's translation of Horapollo's Hieroglyphica. The design program and explanations were devised by Johannes Stabius, the architectural design by the master builder and court-painter Jörg Kölderer and the woodcutting itself by Hieronymous Andreae, with Dürer as designer-in-chief. The Arch was followed by The Triumphal Procession, the program of which was worked out in 1512 by Marx Treitz-Saurwein and includes woodcuts by Albrecht Altdorfer and Hans Springinklee, as well as Dürer.
Appended to the last book, however, is a self-contained essay on aesthetics, which Dürer worked on between 1512 and 1528, and it is here that we learn of his theories concerning 'ideal beauty'. Dürer rejected Alberti's concept of an objective beauty, proposing a relativist notion of beauty based on variety. Nonetheless, Dürer still believed that truth was hidden within nature, and that there were rules which ordered beauty, even though he found it difficult to define the criteria for such a code. In 1512/13 his three criteria were function ('Nutz'), naïve approval ('Wohlgefallen') and the happy medium ('Mittelmass'). However, unlike Alberti and Leonardo, Dürer was most troubled by understanding not just the abstract notions of beauty but also as to how an artist can create beautiful images. Between 1512 and the final draft in 1528, Dürer's belief developed from an understanding of human creativity as spontaneous or inspired to a concept of 'selective inward synthesis'. In other words, that an artist builds on a wealth of visual experiences in order to imagine beautiful things. Dürer's belief in the abilities of a single artist over inspiration prompted him to assert that "one man may sketch something with his pen on half a sheet of paper in one day, or may cut it into a tiny piece of wood with his little iron, and it turns out to be better and more artistic than another's work at which its author labours with the utmost diligence for a whole year".
In 1515, he created his woodcut of a Rhinoceros which had arrived in Lisbon from a written description and sketch by another artist, without ever seeing the animal himself. An image of the Indian rhinoceros, the image has such force that it remains one of his best-known and was still used in some German school science text-books as late as last century. In the years leading to 1520 he produced a wide range of works, including the woodblocks for the first western printed star charts in 1515 and portraits in tempera on linen in 1516. His only experiments with etching came in this period, producing five 1515–1516 and a sixth 1518; a technique he may have abandoned as unsuited to his aesthetic of methodical, classical form.
Maximilian's death came at a time when Dürer was concerned he was losing "my sight and freedom of hand" (perhaps caused by arthritis) and increasingly affected by the writings of Martin Luther. In July 1520 Dürer made his fourth and last major journey, to renew the Imperial pension Maximilian had given him and to secure the patronage of the new emperor, Charles V, who was to be crowned at Aachen. Dürer journeyed with his wife and her maid via the Rhine to Cologne and then to Antwerp, where he was well received and produced numerous drawings in silverpoint, chalk and charcoal. In addition to attending the coronation, he visited Cologne (where he admired the painting of Stefan Lochner), Nijmegen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Bruges (where he saw Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges), Ghent (where he admired van Eyck's Ghent altarpiece), and Zeeland.
Having secured his pension, Dürer finally returned home in July 1521, having caught an undetermined illness—perhaps malaria—which afflicted him for the rest of his life, and greatly reduced his rate of work.
Dürer's later works have also been claimed to show Protestant sympathies. His 1523 The Last Supper woodcut has often been understood to have an evangelical theme, focusing as it does on Christ espousing the Gospel, as well the inclusion of the Eucharistic cup, an expression of Protestant utraquism, although this interpretation has been questioned. The delaying of the engraving of St Philip, completed in 1523 but not distributed until 1526, may have been due to Dürer's uneasiness with images of saints; even if Dürer was not an iconoclast, in his last years he evaluated and questioned the role of art in religion.
Dürer's writings suggest that he may have been sympathetic to Luther's ideas, though it is unclear if he ever left the Catholic Church. Dürer wrote of his desire to draw Luther in his diary in 1520: "And God help me that I may go to Dr. Martin Luther; thus I intend to make a portrait of him with great care and engrave him on a copper plate to create a lasting memorial of the Christian man who helped me overcome so many difficulties." In a letter to Nicholas Kratzer in 1524, Dürer wrote, "because of our Christian faith we have to stand in scorn and danger, for we are reviled and called heretics". Most tellingly, Pirckheimer wrote in a letter to Johann Tscherte in 1530: "I confess that in the beginning I believed in Luther, like our Albert of blessed memory ... but as anyone can see, the situation has become worse." Dürer may even have contributed to the Nuremberg City Council's mandating Lutheran sermons and services in March 1525. Notably, Dürer had contacts with various reformers, such as Zwingli, Andreas Karlstadt, Melanchthon, Erasmus and Cornelius Grapheus from whom Dürer received Luther's Babylonian Captivity in 1520. Yet Erasmus and C. Grapheus are better said to be Catholic change agents. Also, from 1525, "the year that saw the peak and collapse of the Peasants' War, the artist can be seen to distance himself somewhat from the [Lutheran] movement...."
Despite complaining of his lack of a formal classical education, Dürer was greatly interested in intellectual matters and learned much from his boyhood friend Willibald Pirckheimer, whom he no doubt consulted on the content of many of his images. He also derived great satisfaction from his friendships and correspondence with Erasmus and other scholars. Dürer succeeded in producing two books during his lifetime. "The Four Books on Measurement" were published at Nuremberg in 1525 and was the first book for adults on mathematics in German, as well as being cited later by Galileo and Kepler. The other, a work on city fortifications, was published in 1527. "The Four Books on Human Proportion" were published posthumously, shortly after his death in 1528.
In 1527, Dürer also published Various Lessons on the Fortification of Cities, Castles, and Localities (Etliche Underricht zu Befestigung der Stett, Schloss und Flecken). It was printed in Nuremberg, probably by Hieronymus Andreae and reprinted in 1603 by Johan Janssenn in Arnhem. In 1535 it was also translated into Latin as On Cities, Forts, and Castles, Designed and Strengthened by Several Manners: Presented for the Most Necessary Accommodation of War (De vrbibus, arcibus, castellisque condendis, ac muniendis rationes aliquot : praesenti bellorum necessitati accommodatissimae), published by Christian Wechel (Wecheli/Wechelus) in Paris.
Dürer worked with pen on the marginal images for an edition of the Emperor's printed Prayer-Book; these were quite unknown until facsimiles were published in 1808 as part of the first book published in lithography. Dürer's work on the book was halted for an unknown reason, and the decoration was continued by artists including Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Baldung. Dürer also made several portraits of the Emperor, including one shortly before Maximilian's death in 1519.
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